Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I am doing terribly!

Sorry for lack of blogs, folks. Fact is, I've gotten in stride into my Oz book, and want to get it finished soon. I told my editor that I expect to have the first draft done by the end of June, but I might finish sooner.

I initially wanted to do a 20-chapter book, noting that Ruth Plumly Thompson usually had that many, but seeing as my story has a tighter plot than Thompson's (that's not ego, it's fact, Thompson could be very loose), I'm looking at about 16.

And the worst thing about writing an Oz story? You come up with ideas for more! So, I have another Oz book in mind. It's not a sequel to this one, in fact, at least one scene takes place before the one I'm working on, explaining an unexplained item in it. And now I will stop being so vague.

Also, I've been contributing some writing for other Oz projects, and what they are, I really can't say right now. But be sure that as soon as I can say, I'll tell you.

And the podcast, yes, I've been working on that. The next episode is being edited right now, though I think I started work on it too late to finish in time for this month, so we might have two next month, really.

Also, the L. Frank Baum birthday special is underway, thanks to the wonderful volunteers. I really love doing those, because collaboration is a lot of fun.

Anyways, back to editing and writing, and I promise, my take on Captain Salt Outside of in Oz will be coming!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Bitty Bit of Information

Cross-posted from my WordPress blog.

In The Wishing Horse of Oz, we meet Bitty Bit, the Seer of Some Summit. I said a little bit (or should that be "a BITTY bit"?) about him here, but I think he deserves a little more attention. Physically, he's a tiny man who resembles a brownie, although I guess he's not quite small enough to be one, as he's apparently about the same size as Dorothy. He has black eyes, and wears a brown robe and a round cap with a quill. All of the furnishings of his castle on Some Summit, a mountaintop in the Land of Ev, are brown or tan. Bitty lives alone in his castle, aside from a chef who is "even smaller than his Master and almost completely enveloped in a great brown linen apron and tall brown cap" (p. 240). I have to wonder if this cook might be a relative of Bitty's. I have long thought that an appropriate (if not particularly creative) name for him would be Bittier.

The seer is particularly good at what he does, telling King Skamperoo, "I know all, I see all, and what is more, I TELL ALL!" I would imagine Bitty is exaggerating his abilities, as he presumably isn't omniscient, but he does seem to be much more clear with his visions than other prognosticators in the series. Characters like Abrog and the unnamed Soothsayer from Purple Prince tend to prophesy in mysterious, equivocal speech; but Bitty is very direct and accurate. Really, I have to wonder why he doesn't get consulted more often, but I guess that might make things too easy. Even in Wishing Horse, as both David L. Greene and Jared Davis indicate, he's basically a deus ex machina. While an interesting character in his own right, he basically just wanders in and solves everything, putting an abrupt halt to Dorothy and Pigasus' quest for allies. The girl and the pig first meet him in his shooting tower, part of his castle that is built of stones with a rubber-like substance in between. It can expand, contract, and coil; and Bitty can use it to venture out into the world and look for things. When he first meets Dorothy and Pigasus, he is looking for sea serpents, but quickly abandons this search to help the two take back Oz for Ozma instead. With his powers, he is able to discover Skamperoo's treachery with no problem, and sends the conqueror away with several wishes that the seer knows will be used wisely. After that, we never see him again. Not in the Famous Forty, anyway. I'm not sure if there are other books that use him, but I did put him in some of my own stories.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Wishing Horse of Oz

1935, Thompson's fifteenth Oz novel, exactly one more than L. Frank Baum had written, not counting short stories, picture books, or anything in the expanded universe. Twenty-nine Oz books (or twenty-eight, since Reilly & Lee didn't count The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, since they didn't publish it), two authors. Thompson felt her well of ideas for Oz stories was running dry, and she felt Reilly & Lee weren't doing enough to promote the Oz series. This led her to suggest that this Oz book should be the final one.

The Wishing Horse of Oz opens in the kingdom of Skampavia, across the Deadly Desert. King Skamperoo obtains some magic emerald necklaces that grant him the wish for a horse, who happens to talk and is named Chalk. He says he's from Oz, and Skamperoo decides he'll take over Oz.

In Oz, however, a grand celebration is getting underway to celebrate Dorothy and the Wizard "discovering" Oz, with virtually every character from the previous twenty-eight Oz books attending. At the banquet, the Soldier with the Green Whiskers' beard suddenly turns red. Some fear it may be a forewarning of danger. Dorothy swallows a wishing pill (the Wizard seems to have an improved recipe) and wishes that regardless of what happens, she will be able to save Oz and Ozma.

The next morning, Dorothy is surprised to find Ozma, the Wizard, Glinda, Jinnicky the Red Jinn, and every other ruler of any part of Oz and magic worker, gone. No one else notices, and a strange king, Skamperoo, is on the throne. The only person who can help Dorothy is Pigasus. Due to his psychic power of making his rider a poet, he too can remember Ozma when Dorothy rides him. Dorothy realizes they will have to look outside of Oz for help.

They head to the Winkie County, because Dorothy thinks of asking Kaliko or the King of Ev for help. They come across the Black Forest, where everything is jet black. Even worse, Dorothy and Pigasus become black as well and are caught by the Black Watch, who work for Gloma the Witch. Gloma was a witch who retreated to these woods when Dorothy killed the Wicked Witches, so Ozma is completely unknown to Gloma. Fearing that Dorothy may be trying to do her in next, Gloma uses magic to try Dorothy and Pigasus, but they manage to survive. Seeing she is bested, Gloma surrenders to Dorothy, but Dorothy assures her she wishes her no harm. Gloma is able to send the two across the Deadly Desert, removes the blacking, and gives Dorothy a box with a magic powder to create a square mile of total blackness.

They visit Kaliko first. He's frustrated at Dorothy's visit, and would prefer that Ozma stay missing. But he offers what aid he can spare. He discovers Ozma and the missing people on the top of Thunder Mountain, a place where no one has returned safely or escaped from. He also tells Dorothy that he'll send his army if she can enlist another to help conquer Skamperoo. He also gives Dorothy a box of stumbling blocks.

So, wait, Dorothy and Pigasus are on a mighty errand, and are armed with magic weapons, and have a promise for help? This sounds like it could really be Thompson's best yet!

As Dorothy and Pigasus head to the Nonestic Ocean, they find Bitty Bit, the Seer of Some Summit, who, in his completely elastic tower, sees what happened, and takes them back to Oz, where, using the magic weapons and cleverness, they subdue Skamperoo and Chalk. They restore Ozma and Skamperoo is allowed five wishes when he returns to Skampavia. So, all is right again Oz very quickly...

Back in Skampavia, the wishes are turned over to Pinny Penny, Skamperoo's wise prime minister, who uses them for the good of Skampavia: that Skamperoo may be wise and generous, that Skampavia may become rich and prosperous, that the climate and soil would improve, and then, Chalk makes a wish that the three may never be separated, and they may live long. Chalk is added in the final wish.

To me, The Wishing Horse of Oz felt rushed at the end, forcing Thompson to bring in a deus ex machina in the form of Bitty Bit. Thompson had proved she had a great imagination, so I'm sure she would have delivered a different ending, provided the time to work it out. The original edition features numerous errors, suggesting a quick, sloppy editing job as well. It is also noteworthy that this was the last Oz book by Reilly & Lee to feature color plates.

Certainly, the book is not without redeeming qualities, such as the fascinating character of Gloma, a Good Witch of the West (Eric Shanower's The Blue Witch of Oz identifies her as such). It would be worthwhile to revisit her character. Bitty Bit, the deus ex machina that he is, also seems ripe for further expansion, but sadly, these two never re-surface in the Famous Forty.

So, while The Wishing Horse of Oz may be the most exciting build up to a deus ex machina that I've ever read, it is one of Thompson's better books. I just wish she could have fleshed out the ending.

Now, even though Thompson suggested that this should be her last book, would it be?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Catching up?

Oh, hi!

Um, yeah... I didn't blog in about a month. I moved, so there was a bit of upheaval in my life, and having a computer break down on me in January and buying a replacement didn't help speed things up.

Right now, most of my Oz books are in a storage unit a few blocks from here. With the help of some friends, I may be just waiting on a few more Oz books to complete the Oz stories by the Famous Forty's authors. (Well, I have Eloise McGraw's Rundelstone of Oz in Oz-Story 6. I should probably get a hardcover... Which, yes, David Maxine, I'm sure is very nice...)

I have Neill's The Wonder City of Oz and The Scalawagons of Oz here, and they're actually first editions, or so the sellers told me. They're both Reilly & Lee editions, and certainly old. I got really good deals on them, though both show some signs of damage. (Wonder City's cover is detached. I'm kind of scared to read it much...)

My computer issues were mainly what delayed the podcast last month. I have two podcasts recorded, but they need to be edited. At the time, they were on my old system drive, which was an old hard drive that required not just any IDE to USB bridge. However, I found one that worked, so I have access to that data at last.

This week, I decided to finally catch up on Oz comics. I'm ashamed to say the only issue of Marvel's Ozma of Oz I bought was the first. Well, actually, I did place an order for #2-4, and it has been billed, so I guess I've bought the rest, I don't just have them in hand yet. I do have Marvel's Oz Primer, though.

Also finally ordered Ozopolis #1 and the first three issues of Royal Historian of Oz. And I just finished scouring Springfield's comics shops for a copy of Fables #101 that Eric Shanower did the artwork for, featuring some Oz characters. (No, I haven't been following with the Oz references in that series. I know there's a lot, but it's a bit much to try to catch up on.) No joy, but one comics shop owner said he'd try to help me out. And if that doesn't work out, then there is eBay...

Still puttering at that Oz novel. I'm on a slow chapter, mainly designed to fill time so two parties will meet up at the right place at the right time. I think I'm almost done with it, and once it's done... We're building to the climax!

That's also not the only Oz writing I've done, but since certain things aren't set in stone yet, I'm not saying much more. When and if it happens, I'll let you know.

Oh, and yesterday, in less than two hours, I made this guy:
You can read how I made him and how to try your own here.

And one last thing: I'm starting to get L. Frank Baum's birthday podcast ready. We're recording "Tiktok and the Nome King" from Little Wizard Stories of Oz. If you want to volunteer for a character voice, just send an e-mail to scarecrowandtinman2002@yahoo.com

That it? ... I'll just say that even though my Oz books are in storage, I do have a work-around so that the blogs about the Famous Forty can continue. Thank goodness I hit Thompson's public domain books!